Avoiding Burnout

It’s that time of year! This April, I will once again be participating in the A to Z Blogging Challenge. Every day (except Sundays) bloggers post to their blogs something that pertains to a specific theme (usually) and corresponds to the letter of the alphabet assigned to that day. Today is the day when participants reveal their chosen theme. Last year my theme was “Caregiving.” This year I’m going to branch off from that theme and focus on something that caregivers (and everyone else) from time to time, must battle. Facing Cancer with Grace’s theme in 2019 is…

Avoiding Burnout

Burnout is the result of prolonged, excess stress. It can leave you mentally overwhelmed, physically exhausted, emotionally drained, and even spiritually withdrawn.  Burnout renders you unable to keep up with demands of caregiving and even mundane, everyday tasks.

Some Signs of Burnout:

  • Chronic fatigue
  • Frequent illness (low immunity)
  • Headaches
  • Weight fluctuations (Increased/decreased appetite)
  • Anxiety/Depression
  • Lack of motivation
  • Forgetfulness
  • Trouble Concentrating
  • Hopelessness
  • Increased irritability/anger
  • Self-isolation
  • Becoming cynical
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Loss of Joy

A to Z in 2 Places!

Once again I will be doing the A to Z Blogging Challenge on both of my blogs. I will be sharing ways to avoid burnout, here at Facing Cancer with Grace.  At Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker, I will share ways of thinking creatively, using Brainsparker’s Kickstart Course of A to Z prompts. I hope you’ll visit me at both places.

To give you a preview of some of the posts I have (and will have) written, I am posting the schedule. These links will go live when the post is up at 7 AM CST on the following dates:

April                       Topic

1              A             Asking for Help

2              B             Begin your day right

3              C             Clear the Clutter

4              D             Date Night

5              E              Eliminate one Obligation

6              F              Financial Help

8              G             Give up the Caregiver Guilt

9              H             Hug Someone You Love

10           I               Imagine You’re on a Beach: Visualization

11           J              Journal to Avoid Burnout

12           K             Keep Yourself Accountable by Seeing a Therapist

13           L              Lift Someone’s Spirits by Listening

15           M            Mindfulness to Avoid Burnout

16           N             Say No to Avoid Burnout

17           O             One Thing a Day to Avoid Burnout

18           P             Having Pets for Stress Relief

19           Q             Quit a bad habit

20           R             Respite Care for Burnout Prevention

22           S              Sleep Hygiene

23           T              Thankful for the Gift of Gratitude

24           U             Unload 3 Things: Should’ve, Could’ve, Would’ve

25           V             Vacation to Avoid Burnout

26           W            Walking to Keep Burnout at Bay

27           X             X (10) Ways to Cope with Stress

29           Y              Your Self Care Plan to Avoid Burnout

30           Z              Zip through Your Household Chores

May 6                     A to Z Reflections

What Are Your Thoughts?

Please share in the comment section, below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciation, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!

ABOUT HEATHER ERICKSONThe Erickson Family

In 2012 doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan, with stage IV lung cancer. Since then, our family has been learning what it means to face cancer. I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace. My books are available at Amazon.com:

The Memory Maker’s Journal 

Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer

Facing Cancer as a Parent: Helping Your Children Cope with Your Cancer

I also blog at Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker

 


This week I’m taking a break from Facing Cancer with Grace, so I can face cancer with grace. My husband’s health has taken a turn for the worse. I thank you for your prayers and understanding.


Breathlessness A Medical Approach

This is part 2 of our Breathless Series. In Part 1, we looked at some of the reasons for breathlessness in cancer patients. I also shared my husband’s experience with shortness of breath to the point he nearly died. There are both medical and non-medical approaches to alleviate the symptoms of breathlessness. In this post, we will talk about the medical approach.

The Lung Cancer Alliance

In 2017, the Lung Cancer Alliance recently held a webinar called, “Breathing Easier.” It was the first webinar in their Coping Series. This is a series designed to educate and provide practical ways to manage the most common symptoms and side effects experienced by lung cancer patients and survivors. Because Approximately half of all cancer patients complain of breathlessness at some point. (1) The information they shared is valuable to an even wider audience of cancer survivors.

Much of the information in this post comes from the webinar. I appreciate the Lung Cancer Alliance allowing me to share it (originally at Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker). I encourage you to go to their website to learn more ways of coping with lung cancer.

Treat the Cancer

Dr. Lynn Reinke, Ph.D., ARNP, FAAN (University of Washington) is a nurse practitioner, recognized nationally and internationally as a dyspnea crisis management expert. She says that the first key to managing shortness of breath is to treat the lung cancer [or any cancer that has metastasized to the lungs] along with its symptoms.

Our Story

When my husband, Dan, experienced severe shortness of breath, it was because his cancer was out of control. It prompted his doctors to order a new CT scan. The results told us that it was time to change treatments. The following month, there were more scans and his treatment plan changed with each one until they found one that worked. That was when he could breathe again! Until then, several other medications were used to help with his cough and breathlessness.

Medications for Breathlessness

As we learned in the first post in this series, there are many causes of breathlessness. Talk to your provider about what medications are appropriate for you.

Also, learn the correct way to use these medications to maximize the effectiveness.  Because many of these medications are inhaled, the technique you use is very important. When you are being prescribed an inhaled medication, a doctor or nurse will be happy to demonstrate the proper way technique. They can also give you a “spacer.” The Asthma Society of Canada has a great illustration and instructions on their site for using a spacer.

Bronchodilators such as albuterol are fast acting and helpful to use prior to activity that may cause shortness of breath.

Breathlessness
(2)

Long-acting bronchodilators last 12 hours. Some use steroids and some reduce inflammation in the lungs.

Nebulizers are helpful for acute breathlessness. A nebulizer is a portable machine which delivers the medication in the form of a breathable mist.

 

 

Other medications:

Opioids, such as low doses of morphine (10-30 mg) are widely used to manage breathlessness. Even experts don’t fully understand why they work. The anxiety-reducing and cough-relieving effects of diamorphine make it ideal for lung cancer. Even patients with COPD can safely use oral morphine for shortness of breath, The patient starts on a low dose, and which is raised per response and side-effects. This level of morphine is well below the amount that patients are prescribed for pain.

Anti-anxiety medications such as lorazepam. Shortness of breath can trigger anxiety attacks. Anxiety, in turn, causes people to tense up and this further reduces lung capacity. It can become a vicious cycle. Anxiety medications can end this cycle.

Oxygen

Oxygen is only helpful if the blood levels of oxygen are low. You can still experience breathlessness without having a low blood-oxygen level. To see whether oxygen is appropriate for you, doctors will test your oxygen level with an oximeter. That’s the little clamp they place on your finger that has a red light in it. Normal blood oxygen levels are between 75 and 100 mmHg (millimeters of mercury). A level of 60 mmHg or lower indicates the need for supplemental oxygen.

Our Story

People often asked why the doctors didn’t put Dan on oxygen when he was so sick. His numbers were always borderline, but not low enough to merit oxygen therapy. It was counter-intuitive to us since he was struggling to breathe. Yet, these guidelines are in place for a very good reason. Too much oxygen can be dangerous, as well. Levels of over 110 mmHg can damage the cells in your lungs.

Next Post…

Non-medical interventions are often the most effective way to cope with long-term treatment of breathlessness. In the next post, we will look at non-medical approaches to breathlessness, including breathing techniques and exercises. If you haven’t already signed up to receive alerts when our weekly post is up, do that now. If you know someone who is living with cancer, pass this along to them.

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?

I’d love to hear in the comment section, below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciation, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!

ABOUT HEATHER ERICKSON

In 2012 doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan, with stage IV lung cancer. Since then, our family has been learning what it means to face cancer. I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace.

My book Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer, is available on Amazon.com

I also blog at Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker

Footnotes:

1 Virtual Medical Center, Breathlessness in Cancer; https://www.myvmc.com/symptoms/breathlessness-in-cancer/

2 By Trainer2a (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

 

 

Originally posted 2018-11-12 07:00:39.


Baby Steps for resilience

Realistic goals are an essential part of becoming resilient on a cancer journey. Unfortunately, too many people have unrealistic goals. This leads to frustration; frustration with others and frustration with themselves. Thankfully, with some time and practice, these habits can be changed.

Baby Steps toward Your Realistic Goals

Realistic goals start by realizing that life is made up of baby steps, more than grand leaps and bounds. If you’ve ever been a runner, you know that a person can sprint at a very high speed for a short distance, but they could never run a marathon at that same speed. They would quickly burn out. It’s all about pacing, to ensure they can go the distance.

Starting is Easy

In the beginning, we start with a lot of drive and energy. Much of it comes from the adrenalin. You get yourself mentally pumped up to reach a certain goal. But, if the goal is one that will be difficult to reach, that initial drive will eventually wear off. So having smaller, more realistic goals that you can reach can help you to utilize that initial energy. Then, once you’ve reached that goal, celebrate your victory and set a new one.

Constancy is Hard

This is especially true when you are facing a cancer battle. Some days, just getting out of bed can be a herculean task. Other days you feel energized and ready to face the world. And, it’s not just physical.  Your emotional well-being plays a huge role in your ability to stay consistent.  Setting realistic goals will help make this easier.

It is also important to be gentle with yourself. Talk to yourself like you would a friend, with compassion and understanding.  Too many people mentally beat themselves up for not reaching some arbitrary level of achievement each day. So often they don’t even have realistic goals, so it’s unfair to pour out that self-criticism.

Strengths Focused Goals

Know what you can do, now, not back before you were a patient or caregiver. Those are 2 different worlds. Also, do the things you have the strength for. If you are physically weak, it might be a day to quietly read to your grandchildren. if you have extra energy, you may want to fix the leaky faucet in the kitchen.

We began a system of “One Thing a Day.” When we look at our calendar, we should only have one big thing to do each day. It might be a doctor’s appointment or going to breakfast with a friend or cleaning the bathroom. Once you’ve achieved that realistic goal, give yourself permission to take the rest of the day off with no guilt attached.

Realistic Goals don’t include Comparisons

The biggest hindrance to this is comparison. You see the things your friends are doing on social media and you wonder why you can only do this one thing each day before wearing out. One of my mottos is, “Comparison is the devil’s favorite weapon.” Don’t let him use it on you by comparing yourself to someone else.  It will only lead to frustration.

How do you ensure that your goals are realistic goals?

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?

There is so much more that could be said about this, but I will leave that up to you, my readers. Tell me your thoughts in the comment section, below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciation, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!

facing cancer as a parent

Now Available!!

Facing Cancer as a Parent: Helping Your Children Cope with Your Cancer

ABOUT HEATHER ERICKSON

In 2012 doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan, with stage IV lung cancer. Since then, our family has been learning what it means to face cancer. I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace.

My books are available at Amazon.com:

The Memory Maker’s Journal 

Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer

Facing Cancer as a Parent: Helping Your Children Cope with Your Cancer

I also blog at Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker


Shortness of breath and cancer

The most common side effect of lung cancer is dyspnea, better known as shortness of breath. 90% of Lung cancer patients experience this at some point, during, and even long after treatment has ended. In a Lung Cancer Alliance survey, lung cancer survivors of 5 or more years, still rated it as their most problematic issue. It isn’t only lung cancer patients who suffer from breathlessness. Approximately half of all cancer patients complain of breathlessness at some point. (1) Shortness of breath is sometimes called air hunger. Unfortunately, for many cancer patients, it’s a part of their everyday life, negatively impacting their ability to do the things they need and want to do.

Our Story

In the fall of 2015, Dan’s stage IV lung cancer had progressed in his lungs and had metastasized to his brain so it was time to change his treatment.  They put him on a new type of treatment called immunotherapy, specifically, Opdivo. We had big hopes for this new drug which had been having great results in many patients.

Within 3 weeks, Dan developed a cough.  Coughing was a known side effect of Opdivo. It was getting worse by the week. In November, less than two months into the treatment, we went away for a romantic weekend in St. Paul. We went on a tour of the St. Paul Cathedral and visited Landmark Center. We stayed at the Covington Inn, a floating bed and breakfast on a tug-boat sitting on the Mississippi River. Before leaving St. Paul, we walked along Summit Avenue, a historic district lined with well-preserved Victorian homes, including the Governor’s Mansion.

It was a turning point in our lives.

We got home in the afternoon and went to bed exhausted. Dan was in bed for days. It became nearly impossible for him to speak without breaking into a coughing fit. He had just walked over a mile down Summit Avenue, and a week later, could no longer walk across the room without having to sit down. He couldn’t get a deep breath.

“Helpless. Frustrating. Scary.”

Shortness of breath can feel like a tightness in the chest or an inability to take a deep enough breath. In 2015, my husband suffered from severe breathlessness.  I asked Dan to tell me in a few words what this felt like. He said, “Helpless. Frustrating. Scary, because as you continue to lose your breath, you know there’s a limit to what you can lose before you have a big problem. You see your everyday life getting more and more difficult. Just taking a shower is exhausting. Soon, you’re bedridden and hospice is the only thing you have to help. It’s really very sad.”

There are many causes of shortness of breath.

Among the causes of breathlessness in cancer patients (especially with advanced cancer) are:

  • pleural effusion (fluid on the lungs)
  • anemia (insufficient red blood cells to transport oxygen)
  • obstruction of airways due to tumors
  • lymphangitis (thickening of the lymphatics in the lung, sometimes caused by cancer cells)
  • removal of part of all of a lung
  • smoking-related lung issues
  • heart failure or damage
  • pulmonary toxicity caused by chemotherapy and/or radiation
  • fatigue and pain which make taking a deep breath difficult
  • an anxiety cycle which causes panic and a sensation of breathlessness.

Treatment Options

Shortness of breath
Lung function tests

Once your doctor determines the cause of your breathlessness, they will be able to give you some treatment options. The treatment for shortness of breath will depend on the cause of it. For example, if it’s caused by pleural effusion, the fluid around the lungs will need to be drained.

shortness of breath

We began an investigation into the matter with his medical team, including an oncologist and a pulmonologist. He had bloodwork, scans, breathing tests, and a bronchoscopy. We were told that Dan’s cough and shortness of breath were was not a side effect of the immunotherapy, as was previously thought. The treatment wasn’t working, so the cancer had been progressing. He had lymphangitic spread (2). This is a term used to describe the spread of cancer throughout the lungs. Cancer was filling his lungs and he couldn’t breathe.

“Do you have a healthcare directive?”

The doctors began talking about decisions that needed to be made at the end of life. “What about intubation?” “Have you reassessed your healthcare directive?” We had lived with Dan’s terminal cancer for over three years and yet we were surprised by these questions. It was like having cold water thrown on us.  It quickly brought the reality we were facing, into focus.

Along with attempts to ease the discomfort of breathlessness, Dan began one treatment after another. First, a traditional chemotherapy, and then two different targeted therapies, recently released by the FDA, each one after another. Finally, one worked, Tagrisso. It began killing cancer cells and he soon regained his lung function.

Next post…

Treatment options for shortness of breath include medical interventions, environmental changes, breathing techniques, and exercises to improve breathing. Be sure to read my next post to learn more about some solutions to shortness of breath. The link will go live when the post is published.

 

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?

I’d love to hear in the comment section, below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciation, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!

ABOUT HEATHER ERICKSON

In 2012 doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan, with stage IV lung cancer. Since then, our family has been learning what it means to face cancer. I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace.

My book Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer, is available on Amazon.com

I also blog at Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker

Footnotes:

1 Virtual Medical Center, Breathlessness in Cancer; https://www.myvmc.com/symptoms/breathlessness-in-cancer/

2 lymphangitic carcinomatosis (LIM-fan-JIH-tik KAR-sih-NOH-muh-TOH-sis) A condition in which cancer cells spread from the original (primary) tumor and invade lymph vessels (thin tubes that carry lymph and white blood cells through the body’s lymph system). The invaded lymph vessels then fill up with cancer cells and become blocked. Although lymphangitic carcinomatosis can occur anywhere in the body, it commonly happens in the lungs. It can happen in many types of cancer but is most common in breast, lung, colon, stomach, pancreatic, and prostate cancer. Also called carcinomatous lymphangitis. (NCI Dictionary of Cancer Terms)

 

Originally posted 2018-11-05 07:00:33.


Joyful

I’m doing double duty this month during the A to Z Blogging Challenge. Here at Facing Cancer with Grace, I will focus on caregiving. I’ll also be doing the challenge at Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker, where I will share ways to increase your creativity. I hope you’ll visit me at both sites. While you’re here, sign up for my email list. Today’s post is J for Joyful Despite Cancer.

How can you feel joyful…

…when a loved one has cancer? When we first learned that Dan had cancer, we were stunned. How could this happen? How could my husband of 3 years, be given a death sentence? I felt devastated, even angry. We went through all those classic stages of grief. I was even disappointed in God. It seemed so unfair. Dan and I had a dream marriage. He had just adopted our 3 daughters. We went on annual mission trips and had our family routines. Why us? Why now? I felt many different emotions. Joyful wasn’t one of them.

In order to stage my husband’s cancer, the doctor ordered a PET scan. While Dan was having the scan, I spent a lot of time in prayer. Then, I decided to call a former pastor of ours. He and his wife moved out of state a year earlier, so we got caught up on what was happening in our lives. He could tell that I was really struggling with Dan’s diagnosis. So, he gave me the best advice that I may have ever gotten. He said,

“Don’t think about what you could lose. Think about what you have.”

Those words changed my outlook and helped me become joyful again, despite Dan’s cancer.

Summer loves it when Dan rubs her feet. Image by Jim Bovine

Our life as a family…

…has always had a beautiful rhythm to it. We have routines and traditions that define us:

  • books that we’ve read as a family
  • praying together
  • going to church together
  • watching a TV series as a family
  • family trips
  • walks/hiking
  • Dan making our coffee every morning and filling the gas tank so that I never need to.
  • get-togethers with Dan’s parents and siblings
  • quiet time in the living room

Those things help make this life joyful. When things are difficult, we hold even tighter to these things, remembering how precious they are. We live in awe of God’s grace. We soak it all in with gratitude.

July 2016

Dan had a scan result that pushed us back into reality. It looked like his cancer was progressing again. I remember being in the car, crying, as I thought of what could lie ahead; all the difficult things that Dan would go through. And, in the end, he would die.

I thought about that, about living without him. Then, I thought about what that would mean for him. He would be in the presence of Jesus. I pondered that for quite a while and it gave me such joy. Dan loves Jesus more than anyone and anything. As much as he loves me and the kids, he loves Jesus even more. To be in His presence would be the most wonderful experience he could have. That gave me the strength to face whatever would come our way.

The following month, for reasons that to this day, baffle Dan’s doctors, his cancer retreated and has stayed at bay ever since. He recently had metastases in his spine, but that too has been healing.

October 2012

When doctors told Dan, four and a half years ago, that he had stage IV lung cancer, we could have stopped living. We could have thrown in the towel, but instead, we chose to live a joyful life in spite of cancer.

If you are facing something that seems insurmountable, don’t give up hope. Instead, think about what you have and trust God with it. Then live your life with joy,

Resources

I’m in the early stages of putting together a resource page for caregivers of cancer patients. I’d love it if you’d check it out and email me any suggestions of resources you’d recommend. While you’re here, sign up for my email list to get a periodic email newsletter to encourage you on your cancer journey.

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?

I’d love to hear in the comment section, below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciation, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!

ABOUT HEATHER ERICKSON

In 2012 doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan, with stage IV lung cancer. Since then, our family has been learning what it means to face cancer. I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace.

My book Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer, is available on Amazon.com

I also blog at Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker

 

 

Originally posted 2018-04-11 07:00:08.


The ideal you

I’m doing double duty this month during the A to Z Blogging Challenge. Here at Facing Cancer with Grace, I will focus on caregiving. I’ll also be doing the challenge at Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker, where I will share ways to increase your creativity. I hope you’ll visit me at both sites. While you’re here, sign up for my email list. Today’s post is I for the Ideal You vs. the Real You.

One aspect of caregiver guilt that I want to look at more in-depth, is the idea of the ideal you versus the imperfect, real you. The ideal you taunts the real you whenever you don’t measure up.

Not doing “enough?”

Often we have expectations of ourselves that no one could reasonably meet. These unrealistic expectations set you up for disappointment and frustration. Maybe the ideal you is whispering into your ear that you’re not doing enough for your loved one, or, that your caregiving responsibilities are taking away time from your spouse, children or even friends. You might see the way coworkers or friends are living and compare. Comparison breeds envy or pride. Neither of these is based in reality.

The best thing you can do is to realign your goals with the reality you are living. See where you can reduce your responsibilities, and how you can delegate some of the rest. Lower your standards from ideal to real. Everyone—the patient you care for, family members, and you, must lower your standards a little bit and do the best you can. Aim for a B+ in some areas of your life rather than an across-the-board A+.

When guilt nags, ask yourself what’s triggering it:

  • A rigid “I ought to do this. I ought to do that?”
  • An unrealistic belief about your abilities? Even the ideal you doesn’t have superpowers. Try to get comfortable with that gap between perfection and reality instead of beating yourself up over it.
  • Guilt for spending time away from your loved one. You finally get up the courage to go out and do something for yourself. Rather than enjoying the break, you feel guilty for having a good time while your loved one is ill.

 

Guilt loves impossible standards set by the ideal you.

The real you isn’t perfect—neither is anyone else. No caregiver anticipates every problem that can arise. Tempers flare. Appliances break. Germs sneak in. Visitors show up at the worst time! Checks bounce. Life happens. Because of this, no matter how much you love the person, or how much you feel you “owe” him or her, know that you are the real you—not the ideal you. Set your expectations with that in mind and everyone will be a lot happier.

ideal vs real

Musts and oughts

“I ought to visit more often. Twice a week isn’t enough.” This kind of thinking is a little more tricky. Sometimes, it is legitimate. More often, the ideal you just piles on the guilt without any merit. When you think in terms of musts and oughts, consider things as they really are. Are there friends and family who can pitch in and reduce your load?

You weren’t meant to do this alone.

It’s interesting that guilt often comes to call as soon as a caregiver’s load is lightened by getting help. The ideal you whispers that it’s weak to ask for or find assistance. Ask for help.

There isn’t enough of me to go around

So, you were living your life. Maybe you had a job, family obligations, maybe church activities, things you volunteered for. Then, bang! A loved one gets cancer and you must step up to the plate. You don’t feel equipped, but you love them so you’ll do it. At the same time, you try to keep up the other commitments you have in life. The ideal you spurs you on to perfection and the real you falls short every time. You feel exhausted. Anyone who’s been a mom has likely experienced this strain of guilt at some point. Whether a mom has one child or eight, she has enough love to go around. She does have to make changes in the way she runs her household, though.

Revisit and reinvent the “Ideal You”:

The real you will have to make the best choices based on the resources and knowledge you have at the time. You will be a more effective caregiver when you care for yourself first. Loved ones neither want nor expect selfless servants, worn and burned out because they never took a break or asked for help. When you care for yourself, you increase and improve your ability to be the caregiver your loved one needs. The true ideal you is someone resourceful; Someone who gives others the opportunity they’ve been looking for to help.

The true ideal you knows it’s wise to lighten your mental load by talking with a friend, a therapist, or a peer group. It’s normal to feel overwhelmed. Asking for help to run errands, make meals, and take care of chores around the house can close the gap between the real you and the ideal you. One you feel the peace that comes from delegating, you will find that the real you and the ideal you become one in the same.

Resources

I’m in the early stages of putting together a resource page for caregivers of cancer patients. I’d love it if you’d check it out and email me any suggestions of resources you’d recommend. While you’re here, sign up for my email list to get a periodic email newsletter to encourage you on your cancer journey.

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?

I’d love to hear in the comment section, below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciation, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!

ABOUT HEATHER ERICKSON

In 2012 doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan, with stage IV lung cancer. Since then, our family has been learning what it means to face cancer. I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace.

My book Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer, is available on Amazon.com

I also blog at Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker

Originally posted 2018-04-10 07:00:48.


Priceless4purpose

We’ve recommended Priceless4Purpose and Mystic Views to several friends facing cancer and they have had as good an experience as we did.

Spotlight on Giving Back: Priceless4Purpose

Being diagnosed with cancer plunges patients and family members into the quicksand of physical, financial, mental, and emotional overwhelm. It can be hard for patients to take a break in order to refreshPriceless4Purpose: The Steve Bartlett Cancer Non-Profit Organization. is doing something about this by providing an opportunity for patients and a companion to stay at Mystic Views, a bed and breakfast in northern Minnesota.

Cindy Bartlett knows the strain that cancer can put on people, as much as anyone.

The story of this unique respite service began in 2005 when Cindy and her husband Steve decided to start a bed and breakfast in northern Minnesota.

After 3 years, they had finally found their new home. Their Realtor showed them the lakeside property about 30 minutes north of Brainerd in the peak of winter. Even with the cold Minnesota snow surrounding them, they knew that this was the place for them.

By the time they were ready to receive guests in 2008, Steve was diagnosed with colon cancer. He had been awfully tired, but they attributed that to all of the work that was going into getting Mystic Views ready.

Priceless4Purpose

Steve’s battle lasted 20 months.

Over the course of Steve’s treatment at Hubert Humphrey Cancer Center, he and Cindy met many other couples walking the same journey as they were. Some survived, but others didn’t. Steve died in 2010.

“At first,” says Cindy, “I thought, what did we do that was so bad, to deserve this? But then, it didn’t take me long to say, why not us?”

One day, about 6 months after Steve’s death, Cindy took a break, herself, to enjoy one of the hot tub’s at Mystic Views. As she relaxed, she thought about other couples she and Steve had become friends with at treatments. She wanted them to be able to experience rest in the midst of their battle. She remembered that Steve would always say, “I’m the luckiest person to be able to come back here to recoup between treatments.” That was the birth of Priceless4Purpose.

Cindy went to work, making her vision a reality.

It took about 2 years to transition Mystic Views from a for-profit business to the 501c3, Priceless4Purpose. Cindy became an expert in grant writing. Along with her 3 sons, she set out to find the funding to make Priceless4Purpose a reality.

Since 2013, over 100 cancer patients have been able to experience the rest and relaxation that comes from time away in the quiet of nature because of Priceless4Purpose.

Priceless4Purpose is unique, in that it serves adult patients undergoing active cancer treatment in Minnesota, regardless of stage, sex, or type of cancer. Patients can come alone or with an adult loved one of their choosing.

Priceless4Purpose grants guests up to 3 nights respite with both breakfast and dinner, served in their suite. The room includes a king-sized bed and a Jacuzzi. There’s also a private deck which overlooks a private, environmental lake.

Priceless4Purpose
Cindy Bartlett made us some amazing meals during our stay at Mystic Views.

You can help Priceless4Purpose when you shop on Amazon.com.

Support the Mystic Views Adult Cancer respite program whenever you make a purchase on Amazon, at no cost to yourself!

Whenever you make a purchase at Amazon, just use http://smile.amazon.com/ch/45-2602288. Amazon will donate to Priceless4Purpose through the Amazon Smile Program. It’s super easy!

You can also patronize Mystic Views. Paying customers who don’t have cancer, but who are looking for a peaceful B&B are welcome. You can find Mystic Views “north of the tension zone,” near the Minnesota resort towns of Nisswa and Pequot Lakes, so if you decide to head to town, unique shops and activities abound.

Whether you decide to take in the sites or enjoy the tranquil atmosphere at Mystic Views, you will leave feeling rejuvenated.

 

What are YOUR thoughts?

I’d love to hear in the comment section, below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciation, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!

About Heather Erickson

I am an author, writer, and speaker and homeschooling mom of 3. Since 2012, when my husband, Dan was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer, I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness.

My goal is to help people face cancer with grace.

My book Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer, is available on Amazon.com

The Erickson Family, Photo by Everbranch Photography

Originally posted 2017-12-12 00:06:55.


Authentic

I’m doing double duty this month during the A to Z Blogging Challenge. Here at Facing Cancer with Grace, I will focus on caregiving. I’ll also be doing the challenge at Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker, where I will share ways to increase your creativity. I hope you’ll visit me at both sites. While you’re here, sign up for my email list. Today’s post is H is for Honesty: Your Authentic Response.

Let’s be Honest, Who Cares about HIPPA?

I was originally going to write about HIPPA for H. But, really, who wants to read about HIPPA.(1) Instead, I thought I would write about something that many caregivers(and patients) tell me they struggle with—Honesty. “Being authentic” might be more accurate. The dictionary defines authentic as “of undisputed origin; Genuine.” When someone says something hurtful, or just plain tacky, do our responses come from; our heart, or from a desire to not make waves with others?

In, “The New Etiquette: Real Manners for Real People in Real Situations: An A-to Z  Guide,” Marjabelle Young Stewart says that she’s convinced 50% of the people who say something tactless, regret it the moment the words leave their lips. The other 50% have no idea that what they said was tactless. I’m inclined to agree. I also agree with the author that we should usually let it slide, out of our own sense of kindness. However…

Caregivers often end up managing everyone else’s issues.

It’s important to recognize that there is an appropriate response to your situation. Often people accept tactless behavior because the situation is difficult and it’s hard to know what to say. It IS difficult, but that doesn’t excuse people from thinking before they speak. So I would like to pull the curtain aside and expose some of the most common things people say to patients and their family members, which are meant to be helpful but aren’t.  I share some of these remarks along with what you might be thinking, and some more appropriate things that your friend could have said. I also share something you can say to help them understand your authentic feelings while maintaining your friendship.

“I know just how you feel.”

Your authentic feelings might be, “No you don’t!”

Here’s why their statement is inappropriate: Everyone is different. Even if they’ve been in a similar situation, this comment can make you feel demeaned. What you really want is for someone to show some empathy.

A more appropriate response to your pain would be, “I can’t imagine what you are going through. I was so sorry to hear the news.”

What you can politely say to stay true to yourself: “I know that you want to comfort me right now, so please understand that my fears and emotions are unique. No one knows just how I feel.” If you trust them and are ready to talk, you can add, “Being able to share a bit of how I feel might be helpful, though.”

“How long does he/she have?”

Your authentic feelings might be, shock, and pain.

Here’s why their statement is inappropriate:  You are likely fighting some anxiety about your loved one’s prognosis, even if it’s good. Regardless of the expected prognosis, asking this is assumes the hopelessness of the situation.

A more appropriate response to your pain would be, allowing you to experience your own level of hope or lack of hope. They could say, “How are you doing with this?”

What you can politely say to stay true to yourself: “How long does any of us have? No one has a crystal ball. We are continuing to pray for healing and renewed strength.” Note: This might not be how you are feeling, so by all means, change it to reflect what is in your heart.

“I’m sure you’ll be fine,” “Think positive,” or “Don’t worry.”

Your authentic feelings might be, “You obviously have no understanding of what is at stake.”

Here’s why their statement is inappropriate: This situation usually happens quickly, rather than as a deep, meaningful conversation with a friend. This is someone giving you “preemptive encouragement.” They don’t wait to hear about how things are really going or what you’re feeling. Instead, they give you a dismissive, hit and run dose of, “cheer up!” with no investment on their part. While these phrases are often said to encourage the patient or caregiver, they instead belittle your fears and feelings. They can make you feel very alone.

A more appropriate response to your pain would be, “This must be difficult. Is there anything I can do to help you through this time?”

What you can politely say to stay true to yourself: “I appreciate that you are trying to cheer me up. After hearing what the doctor said, we are feeling quite shaken and need to make the appropriate plans for the future. I would appreciate your prayers for us as we move forward.”

“You just need to have faith.”

Your authentic feelings might be, very full of faith, and at the same time, afraid for your loved one. Men and women of great faith experience tragedy all the time.

Here’s why their statement is inappropriate: This is an especially painful accusation. They are insinuating that because you are struggling, you don’t have enough faith. Statements like this can place an undue burden on you and your family. If your loved one doesn’t get better, does that mean they (or you as their caregiver) have no faith? Phrases like this can imply that.

A more appropriate response to your pain would be: “I’m praying for you and your family to feel peace in the midst of this difficult time.”

What you can politely say to stay true to yourself: “My faith in God is strong, but I still have very real fears.”

“I know just what you should do…”

Your authentic feelings might be, “When you’re in my shoes, you can handle things that way. I’m choosing to do something else.”

Here’s why their statement is inappropriate: It undervalues the situation by slapping an “easy fix” on it. Even worse, some claimed “cures” have resulted in patients with otherwise treatable cancers relying on false promises rather than treatments that can save their life.  Also, you may find a wedge between you and your friend if the patient decides not to take their advice. This can happen if you feel like they are pushing an agenda, rather than being a friend.

A more appropriate response to your pain would be, to avoid making any suggestions regarding treatment choices. Those choices belong to the patient alone.

What you can politely say to stay true to yourself: “Thank you for your concern. My loved one and his/her doctor have put together a treatment plan that we feel very good about.”

“Don’t say that! They are coming out with new treatments every day.”

Your authentic feelings might be, “You asked!”

Here’s why their statement is inappropriate: This type of situation often arises when someone is trying to encourage you but doesn’t know how, so they are uncomfortable with the idea that things might not work out. On top of that, they are ignorant of the reality that cancer patients face. Their intention is good, but it stings, especially if you are running out of options for treatments.

A more appropriate response to your pain would be, “I’m so sorry to hear that. What are you thinking of doing?” Open-ended questions are wonderful because they allow you to lead the conversation where you are comfortable going.

What you can politely say to stay true to yourself: “We check the trial website on a regular basis. There is nothing planned for release that treats his/her type of cancer for another year or two. That’s a long time to wait when you have terminal cancer.”

Authentic

They Don’t Mean Any Harm

Patients and caregivers often remind themselves of this as they lick their wounds. Megan Devine, author of “It’s OK That You’re Not OK: Meeting Grief and Loss in a Culture That Doesn’t Understand,” recently wrote a commentary entitled, “Stay Strong,’ And Other Useless Drivel We Tell the Grieving,” that got a bit of backlash. About 90% of the commenters were positive and grateful for her words. It so happens that they tended to be people in grief. The other 10% (non-grievers) weren’t so pleased. “…from those outside others’ pain I hear: “We’re only trying to help! Why are you so negative?” (2)

Why so Negative?

When I’ve brought this issue up in the past, the results were mixed. People who truly care began to worry that they weren’t saying the right things to their loved ones. My concern is that these caring and kind people may hesitate to say anything at all, out of fear that they might make things worse.

The people who are actually saying/doing hurtful things often don’t care enough to change. I often get the impression that they haven’t read anything I’ve written because if they had, they wouldn’t say such things.

My rule of thumb

How you can know if you are saying and doing the right things: If you are worried enough that you would change what you’re doing if you thought it was being received in a way that is hurtful, you are just fine. You CARE. That’s the important thing. When you care like that, you are sensitive to the feelings of others. The things you say come from a place of authentic concern. It’s the people who are so sure they are in the right that they don’t care what others feel or think that are the problem.

Stay Authentic

I hope that through these examples you can see that tactless behavior and thoughtless words of others shouldn’t be normalized and excused. Instead, you can be authentic and share politely how you feel. Hopefully, when you do, the person who said something inappropriate can learn from their mistake and be more sensitive to others in the future.

Resources

I’m in the early stages of putting together a resource page for caregivers of cancer patients. I’d love it if you’d check it out and email me any suggestions of resources you’d recommend. While you’re here, sign up for my email list to get a periodic email newsletter to encourage you on your cancer journey.

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?

I’d love to hear in the comment section, below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciation, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!

ABOUT HEATHER ERICKSON

In 2012 doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan, with stage IV lung cancer. Since then, our family has been learning what it means to face cancer. I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace.

My book Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer, is available on Amazon.com

I also blog at Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker

Footnotes:

  1. By the way, if you really have a burning desire to learn about HIPPA, just ask me for a copy of the post and I will send it to you, via email.
  2. Refuge in Grief Newsletter 3/10/2018

Originally posted 2018-04-09 07:00:40.


HIPPA

I’m doing double duty this month during the A to Z Blogging Challenge. Here at Facing Cancer with Grace, I will focus on caregiving. I’ll also be doing the challenge at Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker, where I will share ways to increase your creativity. I hope you’ll visit me at both sites. While you’re here, sign up for my email list. Today’s post is H for Understanding HIPPA.

Before you or your loved one ever get to see a doctor before they’ll even bring you back to an appointment room, the receptionist is going to slide a bunch of forms across the desk and ask you to sign. Some of them are forms that record your health history. Among these is a form about who the clinic can talk to about your personal information. This is called HIPPA.

Sign Here Please

HIPPA is the law that protects patient privacy. Unless a patient signs these forms and gives permission for the doctor to tell you anything about the patient’s health, they can’t tell you anything. To understand why your loved one’s doctor’s office may sometimes get a little touchy about this, it’s important to understand HIPPA.

Why HIPPA Matters

Health care providers can’t share a patient’s information with anyone without permission from the patient. Not their insurance company, another health care provider, employer, neighbor, kids or spouse—no one. That’s why they make you sign a bunch of paperwork every year, giving them permission to share information with your insurance company so that your bills can get paid.

If your loved one wants you, as their caregiver, to be able to talk to their doctor about your health care (and they should) they will need to give written permission.HIPPA

What is HIPPA, anyway?

HIPPA is an acronym that stands for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. HIPPA established a generally accepted set of security standards or requirements for protecting health information which didn’t exist prior to 1996 in the healthcare industry. This became even more important as technology evolved and health care providers moved to computer-based systems.
While computers are an easy and efficient way to document, store and transmit your medical records, those records are also more vulnerable to a breach of privacy. While this was one of the things which drew attention to the importance of privacy in regards to our health care. HIPPA was enacted to protect patients’ healthcare information and privacy in any and all ways that information is shared, whether it be paper, digital, phone, or person to person.

This is a very brief overview of HIPPA. To learn more visit hhs.gov.

Resources

I’m in the early stages of putting together a resource page for caregivers of cancer patients. I’d love it if you’d check it out and email me any suggestions of resources you’d recommend. While you’re here, sign up for my email list to get a periodic email newsletter to encourage you on your cancer journey.

What are YOUR thoughts?

I’d love to hear in the comment section, below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciation, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!

ABOUT HEATHER ERICKSON

In 2012 doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan, with stage IV lung cancer. Since then, our family has been learning what it means to face cancer. I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace.

My book Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer, is available on Amazon.com

I also blog at Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker

Originally posted 2018-04-09 07:00:11.

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